British racing leaders lay out the sport’s long-term roadmap

Joe Saumarez Smith’s first day as Chairman of the BHA was marked by the news that British racing leadership has committed to coming together to define a long-term strategy for the sport.

An agreement has been reached between leaders of the BHA, the Racecourse Association (RCA) and the Thoroughbred Group following ongoing discussions about industry governance, which will see the BHA assume responsibility for coordinating strategy on behalf of its shareholders.

Saumarez Smith succeeds Annamarie Phelps as chair of the governing body of British racing on Wednesday. Phelps chose not to stay for a second term after ensuring that controversial proposals, under which the BHA would have been relegated to only a regulatory role, were shelved.

Racing officials said the strategy would focus on areas such as prize money, the racing program, the breeding industry, horse and human welfare, the collection and use of data in the sport, ownership, integrity, customer retention and marketing of the sport.

Saumarez Smith, 50, joined BHA in 2014 as a non-executive director. His term of office is expected to end in September next year. “The ongoing discussions about the governance of the industry have now paved the way for the development of a cross-industry strategic vision for the growth of sport, something the industry agrees unanimously,” he said.

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“There is a lot of good work being done by stakeholders, but too often it is done in isolation and we all felt there was an opportunity for all stakeholders to help shape that vision. The strategy will revolve around the industry’s collective aspiration to maintain and enhance Britain’s position as a leading player in global racing.”

RCA Chairman Wilf Walsh said he looks forward to working on formulating a “clear, prioritized strategy. We need to make sure we commit to being agile and getting things done by making the most of the passion, knowledge and ability that exists within the sport.”

His Thoroughbred Group counterpart, Charlie Parker, acknowledged that there had been other attempts to develop a strategic plan for British racing. He added, “I am pleased that the progress made in BHA’s restructuring has enabled us to announce this initiative, which will give the industry a real opportunity to overcome the tremendous challenges we face.”

BHA chief executive Julie Harrington said she was pleased the industry had reached an agreement.

“I am delighted that we can now begin work on delivering this crucial project on behalf of – and in full cooperation with – the British racing industry,” she added.

Harrington also recognized Phelps for all that she accomplished during her time with the BHA.

She added: “An agreement has now been reached with our industry on how it should be governed, the role of the BHA and its responsibility to drive the development of an industry strategy. This is a significant moment for the sport and one that should not be underestimated.

“Annamarie has continued to demonstrate leadership during the Covid pandemic and as sport has addressed a multitude of issues over the past three years, while advancing sport’s focus on diversity, protection and education, training and well-being of our industry’s participants.

“Her commitment to the sport and desire to always do what is right for participants was clear and I am sure she has the appreciation and best wishes of everyone at the BHA and those she has worked with in the industry, takes with him.”

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